The Gold Is In The Gutter For Gutter Girls
Gutter Girls’ modus operandi is best likened to the haphazard chaos of Melbourne drains funnelling dregs and debris into the Yarra on a stormy night; “There’s not much structure or strategy to being a Gutter Girl”. Whipping up raw and unruly femme post-punk governed only by the doctrines of DIY, the foursome has quickly carved out a cult-following over their one-and-a-bit years. Having recorded their latest single, ‘Skin 2 Sin’ in isolation, we spoke to singer and guitarist Isobel Buckley about how instrumental inexperience pales in contrast to “doing stupid shit and having fun”.
Relative strangers before repeatedly crossing paths at Melbourne gigs, Gutter Girls were born from a love of the scene and a desire to contribute to it; “We spent a long time talking about it in the pub with our arms around each other late at night before actually diving into it. We didn’t know each other that well but we all just started seeing each other at local gigs and decided that we wanted to join the fun”. Barring Amada Monteiro (drums) prior playing, Rebecca Allan (bass), Alicia Nolan’s (synth) and Buckley were undeterred by zero musical tuition, even forcing Nolan to get on their level; “Despite being hesitant about not knowing any instruments or being musically talented we thought we could just give it a go. We were all starting from scratch except for Amada who’d played a few instruments, but not the drums. We got her to play something she wasn’t familiar with so we were all in the same boat”.
Driven by the post-punk performances that brought them together, Gutter Girls landed sweetly on a sound between that of fellow Melbourne staples Girl Germs and Hearts and Rockets; “Initially we thought that genre was the one we could get away with without copping too many weird looks. In saying that, those were the types of gigs we were going to and what we all had common ground interest in”. Whilst founded on a DIY ethos, their debut single, ‘OCDC’ and 2019 self-titled EP was a family affair involving Matt Blach (The Murlocs, Beans) and releasing through Sam Lyons’ Spoilsport Records. Though a rapid progression into a more professional process, Gutter Girls always maintained that enjoying the experience was paramount to enriching the end product; “In terms of stepping up, we were still so new to what we were doing, we probably weren’t even concerned with how it would sound. We just wanted to do it because it would be fun. It was a nice way to go into it”. The result of this philosophy is best surmised by Jack Summers’ (Clamm) assessment of their live debut; “I remember our first gig, Jack said we should never get any better or worse. Obviously, it was very rough around the edges and sloppy but that’s something we’ve embraced because, not being technical musicians, we couldn’t provide anything more than that anyway”.
Pressing ahead in the year-that-not-be-named, Gutter Girls recorded and released their latest belter ‘Skin 2 Sin’ whilst in isolation; “It was just a nice excuse to have a project to keep us motivated about the band and anything really. It gave us something to work on together when we couldn’t be together”. Over the wall of guitars and lean synth licks, Buckley blares with the force of Victoria Ruiz (Downtown Boys), hiding the challenge faced when making the song; “I definitely struggled with the recording process. It’s always so much fun doing it together live but this time it was all about critiquing yourself and being in a room doing it alone. Usually the girls would be around and laughing and carrying on”. When asked about what happened when Kath and Kim was actually put on, Buckley elaborates; “I think that was a bit of a cheeky Netflix and chill reference but then actually being like, I would probably prefer to finish watching this episode”.
Having touched on a broad range of topics from anti-establishment agro (‘Corporate Silk’), stress and anxiety (‘Celiac Bitch’) and a contemporary commentary on love (‘Love Song’), Gutter Girls are open to tackling whatever ideas might fly into their faces; “The last song I wrote was about a moth flying into my ear. Whether or not that actually happened, I’m still not sure about. But, I think due to lack of experience, pretty much anything is on the table. I just pick-up on words that rhyme and maybe half make sense but, outside of that, I can’t elaborate more on our song writing process.” Within this wide net sits their other release of 2020, ‘The Bullet’. An ode to one’s vibrator and the pleasure it provides, Buckley speaks about how music can help establish social norms that should otherwise already exist; “Regardless of the genre that we fall into and how male dominated it may or may not be, the stigma around those topics for females should definitely, by now, be broken down”.
Having accrued a crowd of keen punters chomping at the bit for their next gig, Gutter Girls still maintain their feet firmly planted in the gutter. It’s something they wouldn’t have any other way; “We’re getting more comfortable with the songwriting process and performing process but there’s definitely such a long way for us to go. In the very early days, we knew nothing and we’re not really that far from that place because we’re happy to never make it too technical”. In terms of the exact gutter one might find them; “It was just down from the Tote on Johnston street. There was a takeaway place that had one dollar pizza called Angelo’s. It’s mentioned in our song ‘Jaywalker’ and I would definitely play in the gutter there because they were legends!”.